木鉢会 美味しい蕎麦をお探しの方へ


第三回 百人町 近江家


When I think about eating in Shin-Okubo, the station next to Shinjuku on the Yamanote Line, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern food comes to mind, but certainly not traditional Japanese soba noodles.
Long before Shin-Okubo was the cultural melting pot of Tokyo, it played an important role in the history of Tokyo. Hyakunincho is a word that refers to the 100-men squad of samurai assigned by the Tokugawa shogun to protect the newly established capital of Tokyo four centuries ago.

「百人町 近江家」は、JR新大久保駅の目の前にあるので、かえって見過ごしやすかった!

Hyakunincho Omiya soba shop, located a few meters across from the JR Shin-Okubo Station, is easy to miss.
I myself have passed by here many times with an empty stomach on my way to something a little more exotic, but now that I’ve been here once, I regret not stopping by before.

[Photo:two kinds of sake]


美味しい蕎麦を楽しむために蕎麦の前にお酒をいただくのが「正統」なのだと聞いた気がするけど、それって本当? 近江家さんは、日本各地からいろんな種類の日本酒を取り揃えています。

Push back the noren curtain at the entrance and the staff and the traditional Japanese atmosphere welcomes you.
Nagatani-san, the chef and fourth-generation owner, recommends sake and a few appetizers before the soba.
Having sake before the soba is the “right” way to enjoy a meal of fine soba, or so I’m told. But which one?
Omiya’s sake list is long with a variety from Japan’s countryside.


その次にいただいた秋田のお酒「刈穂」は、+21 という超辛口の純米酒。辛いのに味わい深くてなめらかです。

Yamakawa Mitsuo sake, a collaborative effort between four sake brewers in Yamagata, is made with milled white rice.
The unique writing on the label matches the unique flavor! And then from Akita, Kariho sake is a superdry 21-proof sake made with polished rice, resulting in a full-bodied smooth flavor.

[Photo:tempura oysters]


And now it’s time for appetizers served with something in a tiny bowl called sobamiso. A fragrant mix of fried soba grains with dipping sauce, red and also sweet miso paste combined with sesame oil.
Although I’m a long-timer in Japan, this is a treat I’ve somehow missed.


I want to try everything, so... first, tempura oystersーyou don’t see that every day. Fried oysters are common, but getting a crispy tempura crust and a fresh flavor with oysters requires extra skill, something Omiya has perfected.

[Photo: sashimi assortment]


The sashimi assortment makes a great picture.
And then the flavors: tuna and blue-backed fish are always great, but the fish of the day, amberjack, is especially tender and delicious!
For accentーshiso leaf and buds, lemon, ginger...so many flavors to please the tongue!



Next comes kyo-nishin.
I’ve had seasoned herring from a package before, but the sweet-sauce herring prepared at Omiya melts in your mouth.
This alone would make a great main course, but there’s more to come.



Kamo-wasa is sliced roast duck drizzled with soba noodle dipping sauce, and served with grated wasabiーso tender, so refined.
I have to remember to take little bites to make it last.

[Photo:walnut tofu]

「くるみ豆腐」は初めてです。まろやかでプリンみたいだけど、もっと奥深くて絶妙! これ目当てにくる人もいるとのこと。納得です!

When it comes to Japanese food, I’ve had it all, or so I thought.
But walnut tofu? Smooth, fragrant, flavors like pudding, but much deeper and more subtle! “Some people come just for this,” I’m told, and I’m not surprised.



Yakitori served on big toothpick skewers is what you usually get, but Omiya serves it deliciously with onion and shishito peppers.
The mouthwatering sauce is proof that the chef takes pride in making everything by hand.

[Photo:spicy daikon-radish soba]



Although a dozen or more dishes have already passed in front of me, there’s just one moreーthe soba! Spicy daikon-radish soba for me.
Most soba with wasabi paste is everyday, but spicy daikon is unique, andーyesーit is spicy.
It kind of wakes up your tongue put to sleep by all the flavors that have come before. The slender, elegant, fragrant buckwheat noodles have achieved the distinct flavor and texture of handmade noodles.

[Photo: kakitama udon]


And now if you still have room, try the thick udon noodles.
Egg drop soup thickened with kuzu flour is a bowl of indescribably rich flavors.

[Photo: suit of armor]




The Omiya mission to provide the best possible soba experience started four generations ago when the first owner, having trained in Asakusa, set up his own shop in Aoyama.

Since moving to Hyakukunincho near the Shin-Okubo Station exit in the early 1900s, the shop has represented fine traditional Japanese dining in this ever-changing culturally cluttered part of Tokyo.
And one more thingーsaying that Omiya is just a soba shop is such an understatement. For an authentic Japanese eating experience, this is the place to go.

And, before you leave, take a moment to look at the samurai suit of armor in the glass case.
This is an original suit of armor worn by one the samurai that became the namesake for this area, and for Hyakunincho Omiya.

[Photo: A commemorative photo with the owner, Nagatani-san]

■David Thayne(デイビッド・セイン) プロフィール


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